I was four years old, preschool age. It was 1950 something. As the youngest of four kids, I found myself suddenly left at home with no one to play with. All my siblings had go to school, and I was too little to follow. I hated being too little! I weighed as much as my sister did! How could I be too little? Mama said they meant I was too young, I had to be six years old to go to school. Six? That was a lifetime away. What was I going to do for two more years? Why did I have to be the baby of the family? I was hating life. Every day I couldn’t wait until the twins got home from school so I would have someone to play with and something to do.
Our neighbors across Fortieth Avenue were older than my parents. They had a granddaughter my age. Her name was JoEllen. Her grandmother kept her during the day—I guess her mom was working. I did not care how it came to be. All I knew was that I was saved! She became my playmate. I wasn’t alone anymore. Mama reminded me about being polite, sharing my toys, and saying please and thank you. She did not want me to lose this new friend. Mama was so happy for me.
I remember being at JoEllen’s grandparents’ house and watching their milkman deliver milk. Hey, he wasn’t the same milkman that came to our house, I thought Comer delivered milk to everyone. Wow, look what all he delivered! Regular milk and chocolate milk. We never had chocolate milk at our house!
This girl was treated right! I was going to like coming over here.
I remember going home, telling the family about the new milkman, and asking why Comer Dairy couldn’t bring chocolate milk to us. Daddy said, “Comer Dairy doesn’t have any brown cows.” Of course, brown cows gave chocolate milk. I accepted that answer as 100 percent truth without a moment’s hesitation.
Later, I noticed her milkman started to deliver orange juice. Now this was something. I had to tell Daddy about that. When I asked Daddy about the orange juice, I was being a smarty-pants and asked, “What kind of cow did that come from?” I knew where orange juice came from, but did not understand why their milkman brought it to them. With a perfectly straight face, and not a moment’s hesitation, Daddy said, “Orange juice comes from spotted cows.”
Oh no! Now I was in a dilemma. Did I accuse my Daddy of telling a story? Or did he really think orange juice came from cows? Or was he teasing me or testing me? I had to think about this. Daddy was always teasing me about stuff like that, but I wasn’t a baby anymore. I mean, I knew oranges grew on trees—didn’t they? So I did what any skeptical four-year-old would do and said, “Uh uhn! That ain’t right!”
By this time all my sibs were in on the joke: Let’s convince Kathy that orange juice came from cows.
For some reason, Mama kept would not look at me, she kept facing the sink—there must have been something very important going on out that window. My older (only by two years) brother tried to tell me that he had learned it in school—spotted cows gave orange juice.
“Okay, Mr. Smarty Pants. If that is so, then where do oranges come from?”
Daddy started laughing and said, “She has got you there Bubba.”
By this point, I was sitting on my knees in my chair so I would be taller, and my arms were crossed across my bony chest. I was waiting to see how he would answer that. Silence. No answer. Just a lot of giggling. I looked around the table. Nobody had an answer.
“I knew you were teasing me, Daddy”, I said. “Oranges come from TREEEEEEEESSSS,” I screeched.
I had won! I had backed my brother into a verbal corner. Oh, he would try to get out of it. Try to find a way to make like it was just part of the joke, but in my little heart I knew. For one brief tiny moment in my life, I had won!